SAN BENITO — Less than a year after winning her city commission seat, Carol Lynn Sanchez might have to make a big decision.
While she is running for her first three-year term in the city’s May 5 election, Sanchez also is seeking election to the office of Cameron County Court-At-Law Judge No. 2in the March 6 primary.
But, she cannot hold both offices, Remi Garza, Cameron County’s elections administrator, said last week.
Garza also reported Sanchez filed her campaign finance report last Friday, several days late.
The state deadline for those reports was Jan. 16.
If Sanchez wins the primary against longtime incumbent Laura Betancourt, Garza said, she would have no Republican opponent in the November general election so she would have to decide whether she will serve as county judge or hold on to her city commission seat.
Meanwhile, the City Charter states city commissioners can hold no other elected office.
“Except where authorized by law, no city commissioner shall hold any other elected public office during the term for which the member was elected to the city commission,” the charter states.
Seeking to serve
Sanchez, an attorney who serves as the commission’s mayor pro-tem, believed she could hold both offices when she announced her candidacy for the judgeship in December.
Last May, she won election to the Place 4 position from which longtime Commissioner Joe D. Gonzalez resigned to make an unsuccessful run for a San Benito school board seat.
“Just to clarify, I am not abandoning my commission position,” Sanchez wrote on her Facebook page. “That is the first thing I checked on. Since the commission is a volunteer/non-paid position, I am able to run for another. Neither position oversees the same work, so there is no conflict whatsoever. Just like other commissioners have full-time jobs as well, this position (God willing) will simply be mine.”
Sanchez vowed to continue serving on the commission.
“I am a product of my great community, from everybody’s endless support, to my teachers, to my church and I would not just leave it hanging,” she wrote.
Sanchez described her decision to run for county judge as a chapter of a journey of which she long dreamed.
“The time to follow my dream has come,” Sanchez wrote. “Everyone who has known me since I started my journey knows this is what I’ve always worked hard for. I’d like to announce my candidacy for Judge County Court-at-Law #2.”
Meanwhile, Sanchez apparently filed her campaign finance report about eight days past the state’s Jan. 16 deadline.
Last week, Sanchez said she had spoken with Garza about her campaign report.
“When we spoke I did let her know that she can hand-deliver them or mail them in and we will utilize the postmark if available to determine delivery date,” Garza stated.
On Jan. 24, Sanchez sent the Valley Morning Star a text message stating she had “taken care of” of the report’s filing.
However, Garza said Sanchez filed her campaign report this past Friday, Jan. 26, 10 days past the deadline, according to the Texas Ethics Commission.
Garza said the Texas Ethics Commission would have to determine if candidates who file late report face any consequences.
“It is completely within the candidates’ discretion when and how they submit them to our office and whether that filing is effective,” Garza stated in an email. “My office only physically receives them for certain candidates and office holders. The Texas Ethic Commission oversees the submission of campaign finance reports.”
Ian Steusloff, the commission’s general counsel, said it was not uncommon for candidates to file late campaign reports.
“We have late reports for every semi annual filing period,” Steusloff said.
Steusloff said citizens can file complaints requesting the commission review such matters or the commission can initiate the complaint process.
The commission can impose penalties of up to $5,000 for late filings, he said.
Steusloff said prosecutors can also enforce criminal penalties.
– May 2017 — Elected to San Benito city commission Place 4 position
– Dec. 2017 — Announces plans to run for Cameron County Court-At-Law Judge No. 2
– Jan. 16 — State deadline for filing campaign finance reports
– Jan. 26 — Sanchez files campaign finance report